Something’s fishy with this dealership

We have heard of disgruntled customers intentionally wrecking their luxury vehicles to make a point, but this latest incident emerging from Singapore takes the cake. Last Tuesday, a representative sent by a buyer of an Aston Martin V8 Vantage pushed a Styrofoam box into Exotic Motor, a dealership specialising in Ferrari’s and Bentley’s, and upturned the box, sending waves of coins cascading into the shop. The coins, which reeked of fish odour, totaled to almost SG$19,000.

The money was a settlement ordered by the court when car buyer, Ong Boon Lin, lost a lawsuit against Exotic Motor and was required to reimburse the dealership for the car’s road tax and insurance as well as the company’s legal fees. Ong was obviously dissatisfied with the decision. His lawyer had told Exotic Motor’s owner, Sylvester Tang, that his client would be making the payment that day and in cash. Well, the lawyer wasn’t exactly lying.

The coins were in denominations of 10, 20 and 50 cents, and some were in Malaysian and Thai currencies. Since the delivery boy had swiftly made his escape, the dealership’s workers had to pack the money in bags and stored them away, leaving behind the overwhelming stench, which a round of professional cleaning still could not eradicate. Tang claims that the unpleasant atmosphere has caused him to lose 80% of his customers.

Regarding the money, Tang has said that his lawyers are arranging to have it returned. “I am definitely not going to accept it.” According to the country’s rule, coins of denominations less than 50 cents can be used to pay for amounts of up to SG$2, so Ong will have to reissue the payment. He has, after all, made his point. Straits Times reported that the same man was ordered by the court to pay more than SG$240,000 to Marina Bay Sands in casino debt, which casts doubts on his character and even sanity. Not forgetting as well that the law of the mighty lemon applies in Singapore, so the court would not take the corporations’ side unless absolutely deserving.

While in this case we are inclined to believe that the customer was not in the right, we have written often about the lacklustre customer service in the automotive industry…or are we just becoming more pernickety? Possibly. In our corner of the world, a study found that Malaysian new car owners’ overall satisfaction level regarding their experience in authorised vehicle service centres had dropped, but the same study also found that customers had higher standards than before (read Malaysian Car Owners Less Satisfied With (But Expects More) From Service Centres). As we move towards the trend of vehicle-sharing and away from car ownership, aftermarket services become an important component in the automotive industry, to help car brands differentiate themselves in an increasingly competitive industry and to service multi-user vehicles which are utilised more (read Consumer Sentiments During Challenging Times and De-motorisation). Thus, the customer may not always be right, but car dealerships and service centres should get their customer service right.


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